A French smuggling gang was using the drone to traffic drugs from Morocco to southern Spain, taking advantage of its capacity to carry up to 150 kilograms of cargo. The drone has a wingspan of nearly five meters and a flight range of seven hours. It can reach a maximum speed of over 100 miles per hour and is worth up to $7.700.
The gang trafficked the drugs from Morocco to the small town of Almachar in Spain, with only 1,811 inhabitants. Pedro Luis Bardón, from the National Police’s airborne resources unit, told El País newspaper that they had never seen a drone that big used for this purpose. It’s the biggest one ever found in Spain and very possibly in Europe.
The five-motor drone, made in China, was discovered in a warehouse in the city of Malaga, following a joint investigation by Spanish and French cops. They also found 85 kilos of weed and hashish and arrested four people in the operation, three in France and one in Spain – who will now face prosecution because of drug trafficking.
The gang flew the drone using an electronic system that relayed the exact takeoff and landing points. It could also be flown using a remote control. The police said the criminals didn’t have much knowledge related to its use, which posed a danger to other air traffic, even for passenger flights, considering the massive size of the seized drone.
The inside of the drone is hollow, and would normally be used for cameras or other electrical equipment. In the case of the drug gang, it was being used for packages of narcotics, particularly cocaine. “Technology makes our lives easier, but it also ends up in the hands of the bad guys,” said the Málaga police chief, Roberto Rodríguez Velasco.
A trafficking hotspot
It’s not random that the gang chose to move the drugs in the stretch of sea between southern Spain and Morocco. This is known as one of Europe’s busiest trafficking zones, with large amounts of weed and cocaine being smuggled. The stretch could be easily covered by the seized drone thanks to its average seven hours flight autonomy.
Intervenido en Málaga un dron de 4,35 metros preparado para el trasporte de droga entre #Marruecos y #España
Pertenecía a una organización que se dedicaba a comprar hachís y marihuana en Marruecos para su posterior transporte y distribución en Francia
Hay 4 personas detenidas pic.twitter.com/UpNo7e2XBr
— Policía Nacional (@policia) July 13, 2021
The discovery of the drone follows similar busts by the Spanish police. In July this year, they found a network of drug traffickers that used a fleet of small drones to move cocaine from Morocco to Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish city near the coast of Africa. The police found seven drones, each capable of carrying between four and 25 kilograms.
Drones are also frequently used to move drugs from Mexico to the United States. The first reported seizure was in Calexico, on California's border with Mexico, in April 2015. It had been used to carry a total of 28 pounds of heroin over the border in four trips. Over the next five years, 170 similar incidents were officially reported.
Still, drones aren’t the only method used by gangs to traffic drugs, at least in Europe. In March this year, Spanish police found a 30 feet long fiberglass narco-submarine, capable of carrying two tons of drugs. Since 2019, when the first submarine was discovered in Spain, the police have found several of these vessels being used to traffic drugs across Europe.